Joanne McPortland on the Call to Self-Destruction

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Ignacio de Ries: The Tree of Life, 1653

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spring quite like this. It’s not unusual for depression to come in cycles, and for it to hit harder as we emerge from winter. But this season, everywhere I look, I see people more people crushed under this burden than I ever recall seeing before.

Are we just talking about it more? Are we being more candid? Are years of stagnant economics and social upheaval wearing down our ability to resist?

Or is there something else going on here? More than one Catholic has suggested to me in private that it’s the work of the devil, and I’m inclined to agree in at least some of the cases. People are being flattened by depression like Wile E. Coyote under an anvil.

Joanne McPortland writes powerfully today about the siren song of suicide that calls us to death:

Maybe because I, and all too many Catholics I know, have started hearing the YouDon’tDeserveToLive voice louder again this spring, breaking through whatever treatment measures we had found useful. That happens. But if it’s the first time it happens after you’ve had some relief, it can provoke a faith crisis as well as a psychological one.

The pull of self-erasure can be particularly awful for people of faith, who feel the shame of not measuring up, not trusting in God enough, not being grateful enough, not being good enough. We’re likely to be more terrified when the abyss looks back if we feel the loss of God’s presence and consolation. Depressed Catholics don’t need to be reminded to beat our breasts in the Confiteor—it is always, for us, through our most grievous fault that we dare to exist. That’s not the Church’s teaching or intent. It is part of our DNA, part of how the disease manifests in this population.

There’s much more, including some advice on how to get through it. 

Sorry it’s been such a downer here lately, but the topics choose me, I don’t choose them.

I’ve bee writing more about prayer lately because that’s how I’m trying to work through it. The Jesus Prayer has been of great use to me lately, and now I have a new weapon in the arsenal: a chotki.

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This prayer rope uses knots to count off the Jesus Prayer, which some spiritual heavyweights have prayed tens of thousands of times a day. A rosary could serve the same purpose, but the rope is traditional in the Eastern Church, and I like having a new and distinct tool to use. I picked this one up in the shop next to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia, but you can find them on Amazon.

More on mental health and depression.